Architecture and Design Showcase at the University of East London
What I perhaps enjoy the most about the London Festival Architecture is its ability to unveil a whole range of unknown places, people and ways of interacting with the city. The Festival allows us to visit different urban atmospheres; from London’s most glorious and highly curated institutional environments to a series of tiny and almost spontaneous urban pockets managed by local community groups. It encourages us to move, investigate, think and finally to participate.
During the festival, one of the discoveries I made was the Architecture and Design Showcase at the University of East London. I was kindly welcomed and toured round by Dr Harald Trapp, Head of MArch Master of Architecture and Christian Groothuizen, Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) Architecture.
Far away from any form of London’s urban chaos, the UEL campus has formed its own distinctive sense of place in the very east of London. It is a quiet, peaceful, student environment overlooking the river where occasional plane noises remind you where you are. By placing the campus on Royal Docks, the school gave an opportunity to its students. They are able to witness, understand, critique and reimagine how processes of urban regeneration and redevelopment impact the existing built environment.
It didn’t take a lot for me to realise that for the UEL School of Architecture making was an essential part of the learning process – from the school’s early foundation courses to its final diploma studios, it was clear that the school’s teaching agenda highly encourages a hands-on approach. The students didn’t seem to use physical models to merely represent their ideas in a tangible 3D form. Rather, making seemed to be embedded throughout the whole creative process, where they used craft to explore, design and think.
The exhibition showcased a clear line of the learning process that UEL offers. Year 1 students seemed to be focused on showing their newly acknowledged set of skills that ranged from sketching to technical drawing and model making while moving towards Year 4 and 5, students were acting more as critical agents while examining the boundaries of architecture in its social, economical and political context. Some of the topics that have been explored questioned what a roomy city is; in response to the current issue of the housing crisis, gentrification and the marginalization of local communities. They also explored how diplomatic missions of architecture are looking in the 21st century. I also enjoyed finding out that the school runs a series of non-obligatory live projects through which students have an opportunity to work with London community groups to deliver community infrastructure projects including small buildings, playscapes and public consultation events.
The visit to the UEL Architecture and Design Showcase made me realise that the London I knew a month ago is not the same city I can see today. I believe that the festival succeeded in its mission to engage everyday people with London’s current urban conditions and has started to bridge different urban areas and communities creating a sense of collectivity.